May 1 2009

Transformer Desk (Prototype 1a)

by andrew

This desk project has been such an ordeal that I’m tempted to write a book about it all unto itself: how the main design goal was to achieve practical, maximum productivity – to have a place where I could stash my computer, laptop, card reader, external hard drives, firewire for video connections, and so on all connected and ready for getting work done in whatever bite-sized chunks are available throughout the day; how the design constraints included fitting this all into a corner somewhere in such away that it didn’t unduly impose on the living space of our trailer while still being a comfortable and usable work area for programming, photo editing, and video production; how various ideas came and went, multiple trips to the local Lowes (30 minutes away), redesigning it on the fly in my head while shopping when certain parts weren’t available, trying workarounds only to realize they were impossible and finally breaking down and ordering what I should have just ordered online in the first place and then waiting for it to get delivered; and of course how all the little unanticipated implications and challenges cropped up and forced reckonings (usually later than my brain was completely up to the task, but my fingers were still willing to drill and screw things together anyway): the legs that had to be longer than the space that they had to fit inside, the shelf that wouldn’t fit because I didn’t factor in space lost from other pieces, the fact that it fit nice and snug against the wall empty but not so when the computer was mounted and bumping the power strip plug in the outlet, the way one leg initially blocked my sliding shelf from sliding and everything underneath had to be remounted an inch over (and the dern leg still sticks out under the edge a bit)… oh the list could go on.

It was definitely one of those projects that grabs you and doesn’t let go – it was fun and frustrating at the same time. I could have done without a couple of those 3/4am nights. And in the end I think I’m pretty much exactly 83.15% happy with the final outcome. I had to knock some points off for the following annoyances:

  • It really is too high over all. I went with a prefab cabinet with shelves as a starting point since the width and the depth were almost identical to my original design ideas and I thought I could save time and money by getting most of the materials and hardware cheaper that way than buying everything separately and then having to cut stuff up etc . I thought the extra height would translate into extra storage space and that I could compensate by dropping the sliding shelf lower. I was sadly mistaken. Stupid geometry.
  • It is extremely heavy. Every compensation for a particular limitation ended up resulting in more hardware. It added up fast. I need to reinforce the main door hinges with additional support hinges. It certainly adds more overall weight to the trailer. At one point I considered tearing off the main door and all the heavy stuff and just throwing everything in the cabinet and using my lap for part of the desk – after all, it already folds pretty well and I can take it wherever I go. But I think I’ll just take down all the bedroom doors in the trailer and toss those out instead.
  • One leg pokes out a bit from underneath like I mentioned. Arg. Otherwise the shelf wouldn’t slide out.
  • It’s too heavy.
  • The external hard drives aren’t quite as accessible as I’d like them to be if I have to grab one and take it with me somewhere.
  • Did I mention that it’s too heavy?
  • I almost wrecked the legs adding the hinges to make my own expandable leg design since the holes in the hinges were to close to the edge of the wood and I started to split it… grrr. But so far it’s still standing.
  • Oh, and it’s also too heavy.

Other than that, it’s PERFECT. Which is why I’m going to have to completely rebuild it from scratch at some point in the not too distant future. Here I am enjoying the prototype fruits of my labors:

Finally! A Desk!

Everything you see stays in the desk all the time. It all folds up into the corner and looks (from the outside) pretty much like the original ClosetMaid product:

ClosetMaid Cabinet

ClosetMaid Cabinet

And here’s a gallery of the PROCESS and the DETAILS for the uber-curious. [There should be 24 photos there, but I’m having uploading issues on these silly wireless connections. Oh for the days of residential broadband… those days are gone. Anyway, keep checking. There are photos of the transformation stages in there too.]

Renee thinks I should fine-tune the design and start selling them to earn us a fortune. Sure, honey, I’ll just pull a few more weeks per day out of my back pocket and we’ll be in business 🙂 She’s so awesome. You should have tasted crock-pot roast she cooked up tonight, and seen the hard red winter wheat she vacuum sealed, and looked at the logos she drafted, and witnessed the dozen other things she juggled and got done today.